The Red Cross has announced that it was able to enter the war-torn Yemeni city of Taiz for the first time since August, delivering three tonnes of medical supplies to four hospitals treating the wounded.
Taiz has been one of the hardest fought fronts in a war in which local militias and forces loyal to the Saudi-backed government, which was ousted by Houthi rebels last March, are seeking to fight their way back to the capital, Sanaa.
Many residents of the city of 200,000 people claim the Houthis have blocked aid from entering and bombed civilian targets.
“This is a breakthrough and we hope today’s operation will be followed by many more to come,” said Antoine Grand, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Yemen. He added that the ICRC team delivered surgical items, intravenous fluids and anaesthetic supplies to help treat hundreds of wounded.
“Essential medicines and supplies for pregnant women were also provided. All of these items are in high demand by the hospitals in Taiz that continue to receive a daily influx of wounded people,” Mr Grand said.
Living conditions for civilians in the city have continued to worsen, with residents facing daily insecurity and a constant struggle for medical care, food and water, the ICRC said.
Yemen is now at the centre of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with the UN saying that famine looms over half the population, or 14.4 million people.
The al-Thawra hospital in Taiz has had all its windows blown out by bombs landing nearby, and several direct hits have reduced one ward nearly to dust.
Francis Markus, An ICRC spokesman, confirmed that al-Thawra was one of the four that received medical supplies, along with al-Taawon, al-Hikma and al-Jumhoury hospitals. “What is needed is regular, unimpeded access,” he said.
After the government fled into exile, a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states joined the war to restore it to power, recapturing the port of Aden, where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is now based.
The Saudis claim the Houthis are puppets of its arch rival, Shia Iran.